Posts Tagged ‘Dan Ronan’

A Real Deal Meal

April 7, 2013

Friday April 5th, 2013 – Florence, IN

   One of the benefits of spending a life on the road is getting to sample some of the finest food at places I would never have visited had I chosen a ‘normal’ lifestyle. My home turfs of Milwaukee and Chicago are both stellar chow towns, but I’ve had outstanding grub all over North America.

That being said, I can’t remember when I have ever enjoyed a more delicious or well presented meal than I had tonight after my show at the Belterra Casino in Florence, IN. WOW, what a treat of epic proportions, and I wasn’t even expecting it. Surprises like this make life worth the effort.

I’ve worked at the Belterra Casino before, but it was years ago. I remember doing a private gig for some kind of corporate holiday party and it was extremely difficult. The place itself is one of the most beautiful facilities I’ve ever worked though, and I didn’t mind going back to try again.

This was for a completely different booker, and a completely different situation. Last time was a private party. This time the casino itself wanted to book a comedy show for the public. It’s not the same thing, so I said yes. One thing I didn’t recall was how difficult it was to get to the place.

It’s located right on the border of Kentucky and Indiana, and it’s an easy drive from Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Louisville. It’s a brilliant location in that regard, but getting there is a huge pain in the ass because after Indianapolis it’s a lot of two lane highways and small town slow roads.

I also thought Indiana didn’t participate in Daylight Saving Time, and I lost another hour I was planning on. I didn’t get to the show until five minutes before, and I really don’t like to cut it that close but everything lined up and that’s how it worked out. It was pure stress those last two hours of what is already a long drive, and to make it worse I had been given the wrong contact number.

I thought I was leaving messages for the show manager, and couldn’t figure out why he would not return my calls. Finally, the booking agent’s office called and scolded me for not checking in when in fact I had been trying to for hours. We straightened it out, and I got there just in time for opening act Dan Ronan to go on stage while I parked the car. It’s a good thing we rode together.

Dan is a funny kid, but he’s very young and the audience was a bit older. He did the best with what he had to work with, and I’ve been there myself. I knew exactly what those people wanted, and I let them have it with both barrels. I kept it clean, but also kept them laughing until they had enough. The casino wanted a 90 minute show, so I had to do an hour and five minutes and I did.

The person in charge seemed very pleased as he came to our dressing room and told us we had a complimentary meal coming at Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse. Dan and I had thought about a possible return trip, but the offer of a free meal quickly killed that stupid idea. We were in for the night.

This was a major treat for me, and I’ve been around the block before. For Dan, he died and was loving his first day in heaven. He ordered a New York Strip and I had the bone-in filet and it was off to the races. Our waiter Ronnie was a big fan of comedy, and he couldn’t have served us any better if his life depended on it. Top to bottom, this was one of the best meals I’ve ever enjoyed.

That’s the key part too – we ENJOYED every last bite of it. I had a seafood appetizer that was also spectacular, and it was one of those nights that made me happy to be alive. Jeff Ruby isn’t a name I’d ever heard of before tonight, but I’ll never forget it now.  This was a world class meal.


Minnesota Memories

January 13, 2013

Saturday January 12th, 2013 – Bloomington, MN/Shakopee, MN

   One more night in the Twin Cities, and then it’s back to the balmy Chicago climate. It’s maybe 8 degrees here if I’m lucky, and everything is frozen either open or shut. I haven’t felt it this cold in a long time, but I still like it up here. The people are friendly and seem to really enjoy comedy.

I’ve always done very well here, even though I haven’t worked the area as much as I probably could or should have. It’s a rather far drive, and through the years I never made it a point to seek out bookings in the area. In retrospect, I think that was a mistake. I should have pursued it more.

At one time back as I was starting out, I thought seriously about moving here. That would have been a smart move as it turns out, but I ended up taking my first radio job in Lansing, MI instead. That was in 1990, and my world changed from there. I lasted in Lansing for six unstable months.

That wasn’t the end of the world, and I could have easily moved on and came here anyway but instead I ended up getting another radio job at 93QFM in Milwaukee in 1991. That was a disaster in the long run, but at the time I really wanted to do it so I did. Who knew it would be a mistake?

Life is full of decisions for everyone, and sometimes we all choose poorly. In theory, getting an opportunity to do a morning radio show in one’s home town is a big deal. In reality, it was one of the worst career choices I ever made and it ended up stunting my comedy growth for many years.

Radio became a monkey on my back, and every few years I’d get another offer that would pop up out of nowhere and once again distract me from standup comedy. I wish I would have stopped after Lansing, but I always thought the next gig would be ‘the one’. It never was, and here I sit.

I wonder how my life would have turned out had I moved here when I wanted to. There was an exciting comedy scene here then with a lot of excellent comics and I bet I would have fit right in. Jeff Cesario is originally from Kenosha, WI but he’d moved here even before I thought about it.

I’ve always liked and respected Jeff, and he’s a very sharp guy. He developed here and went to L.A. after that and has done very well for himself. He’s one of my all time favorites, even though we’ve only worked a couple of times over the years. I have to believe had I moved here it would be a lot different. We’d be a lot closer, and I would have eventually moved to L.A. and stayed.

Woulda, coulda, shoulda. That’s not how it turned out, and that’s how it goes. Now I’m in the situation I’m in, and it’s too late to go back now. I’ll always wonder what would have happened, but there’s no guarantee life would have been all Hershey bars and Archie comics had I gone that way either. Life is always full of ups and downs, and I may have had all kinds of other problems.

I talked about this with Dan Ronan today as we walked around the Mall of America. He’s just starting to spread his wings, and I tried to impart a little wisdom on him I wish I’d had available when I was making all of my major life choices. He’s got a lot going for him, and I hope he has a much smoother ride than I did. We had a killer show tonight, now it’s another long drive home.

Paying It Forward

January 12, 2013

Friday January 11th, 2013 – Shakopee, MN

   I’m trying to maintain a positive attitude, but it’s not easy. That speeding ticket yesterday was a kick in the lug nuts, not to mention the wallet. I don’t know why money has to be such an issue in life but it absolutely is. Some find a way to master it, while others inherit more than they need.

The latter are usually the first to say “Don’t worry – it’ll all work out.” It’s easy not to have to worry when there’s a trust fund in place or a rich relative available to help bail one out of a cash pickle. I’d love to be able to count on someone when times get bleak, but I’m a one man band.

All I want is enough to not have to worry about stupid stuff like speeding tickets. Whatever the reason, it was my turn and I will have to pay up. I would guess I drive about five times more than the average driver, so it’s inevitable I’ll get more speeding tickets over the course of my lifetime.

Still, yesterday was not when I needed it. I’m trying to come out swinging this year and get my financial ship righted to get out of debt. I don’t expect any free rides and I’m willing to pay what I owe, but that one materialized out of nowhere and urinated my flickering candle of hope out.

Plus, it happened at the beginning of the trip to put a damper on the whole weekend. I tried not to think about it last night in Eau Claire and tonight in Shakopee, MN, but I couldn’t help it. I did this run for the money, and now not only won’t I be making any I have to pay out of my pocket.

It is what it is, and I’ll shut my mouth and keep slugging. I’m working with a young kid named Dan Ronan this weekend and he’s got big time written all over him. He’s 23, and has spectacular upside potential. I was able to bring him along on this run and if nothing else at least I can enjoy a chance to mentor someone who appreciates it. I’m unbelievably impressed with his raw ability.

Dan lives in the Chicago area, and we crossed paths a few years ago at the Zanies Rising Star Showcase. He was only 19 then, but I could see his talent immediately. He’s stayed with it and is starting to come up the ladder and it was my pleasure to help him by including him on this run.

He’s got a great work ethic, and he’s a student of the game just like I was at 23. I see a big part of myself in him, but I think he’ll take it a lot farther than I ever did. He’s got a great look and an unusual delivery and I see him all over TV in the not too distant future. This kid is a big leaguer.

Hopefully, I can plant some of the nurturing seeds in him that comedians like Gary Kern, Kyle Nape, Danny Storts and others planted in me when I was his age. Those guys showed me how to be a comedian both by their words and their actions. Now it’s my turn to pay some of it forward. I don’t need a run like this for anything but money, but Dan needs the stage time to get his chops.

He came through with flying colors last night and tonight. He was nervous beforehand for both shows, and perused his set list like it was the winning lottery numbers. I used to do all that, and it made me smile watching him do exactly what I did all those years ago. Having a chance to act as a mentor to a talented kid like Dan is a treat, and I’ll focus on that. He’s got a very bright future.

One Of Those Nights

November 7, 2012

Monday November 5th, 2012 – Chicago, IL

   One of the unavoidable pitfalls of standup comedy is that once in a while an audience just plain stinks. There’s no way to escape it, and the only alternative is to plow through it and get yourself to the next one. It happens to us all, and there’s no way to predict when or where it will pop up.

It happened tonight at Zanies in Chicago as I hosted the Rising Star Showcase. I enjoy hosting those, as it lets me stay in touch with who’s coming up the ranks these days. The quality of those shows have been quite high as a whole, and tonight was no exception. I felt for their situation.

The Rising Star Showcases are basically an audition for work in front of Bert Haas who books the three Zanies clubs in the Chicago area. To his credit, he actually comes out and watches all of the acts in person and offers face to face feedback afterwards. That’s unfortunately not common.

I can’t count the times I’ve made a several hundred mile trip at my own expense to audition for some booker only to find out he or she ‘won’t be coming in tonight’ for whatever reason. Seldom if ever does anyone ever give an actual reason, and it turns out to be a complete waste of energy.

Bert shows up every time, and even gives the lineup a speech beforehand about what he would be looking for in a potential act if they passed the audition. Whether the acts know it or not, he is doing them a favor and a courtesy by letting them know what the deal is and I respect him for it.

I try to go out of my way to give every one of those who go up a stellar introduction and allow them the best chance to succeed. I’ve had to go up to horrible intros from incompetent hosts for a lifetime, and that can make an already difficult and potentially intimidating situation even worse.

People in the audience don’t realize how hard it is to break in with a booking agent, and I guess it’s not their job. They’re there to be entertained, but often there’s a lot more at stake going on at any given time. Their role in all of it is a lot more important than they realize. They have impact.

Tonight’s lineup was loaded with young comics who I thought were filled with potential. One of them was a kid from Iowa named Jack Lewis. He took a bus to Chicago to do a ten minute set, and that’s very refreshing to see. I did stuff like that when I started, and I know what it feels like.

There were other acts on the bill like Andrew Burcastro, Anne Root, Peter Kim, John Thomas and Dan Ronan who all have a spark of real potential, and I enjoyed watching them work. What I didn’t enjoy was watching how hard they had to work to try to squeeze laughs from a dud crowd.

They just weren’t into it, and it wasn’t the acts’ fault. Sometimes it can be easy for a comedian or any other performer to blame an audience when indeed it’s not their fault at all. Tonight was a different story. These people never gelled the entire night. It wasn’t in the cards, and it happens.

I wish all these up and comers the best, and I tried to tell them all that all anyone can do is keep showing up and doing what they do. It’s never easy or fun to have to plow through a dead crowd, but it’s something every performer has to face and it helps build a thick skin we all need to have.